The bartender—more than just a host
As bartenders, the satisfaction we derive from making the perfect drink is something that can be taken all too seriously.
Over and above assembling the choicest blend of flavor, aroma, temperature, texture, color, garnish and glassware, the ultimate satisfaction should come from the guest; and not just their appreciation of the drink we've put together but their overall experience at our bar.
That said, I'd like to share the idea of "The Third Place," which has been my personal guiding philosophy behind the stick. Through the ages, "The Third Place" has materialized as the bohemian Absinthe parlor, Wild West saloon, Gin joint, cigar salon, sheesha bar, and coffee shop. It is slightly different in every community and changes throughout history, but it exists in every society, large and small.
To the individual and in communities, it is separate to the home ("First Place") and to the workplace ("Second Place"), fulfilling its necessary function in society as a place of communication, meeting new people, talking and sharing ideas.
"The Third Place" is where people gather socially and partake in social rituals and as bartenders, we play the important role of facilitating this space and the interactions that take place within it. My point is that we must recognize our role as bartenders, in our own bar.
Our guests visit cocktail bars for many reasons but there is always a central theme—they come to feel welcome, they come for something new, they come to meet new people, and to share ideas. A bartender must realize that they are pivotal to their guest's experience and consequently, have a part to play in the way communities develop.
Personally, I'd like to think that the cocktail bars Hemingway's celebrated writing career was lived out in—where he drank, socialized, met new people and found fresh inspiration—had no small part to play in his literary success.
It's not enough just to serve drinks. We need to keep learning and exploring new flavors, combinations and techniques, while looking our best. But this is only 1% of the job. Above and beyond the technical aspects of bartending, you must be prepared to perform and to put all of your energy into your service, your manners and your smile.
We need to be proud enough to encourage our guests to behave well—to be polite, to smile, to talk and to be humble enough to realize that we are professionals, and that it is our goal to make it a special evening for our guests. We must keep evolving, but we must always maintain a strong sense of identity.
A bartender must work hard, must perfect their drinks, must move fluidly and be aware of their guests. When we work mindfully, we inspire every one of our guests, and our guests will inspire us. This is when coming to work becomes a pleasure for us all to enjoy.